We’ve all heard of the Princess Pat, and most of us know that she didn’t really live in a tree.  But who was she?

, Girl Scout History Project
Princess Patricia of Connaught (London Illustrated News)

Born in 1886, Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth of Connaught was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her parents were Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia. After a lengthy career in the army, the duke served as Governor General of Canada from 1911 to 1916. Because her mother was in poor health (she passed away in 1917), Patricia served as her father’s official hostess in Canada. Patricia was very popular and highly respected for her work for the Red Cross.  She was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the newly formed Canadian Light Infantry in 1918 and personally embroidered the regiment’s first official colors — their flag. Colonel-in-Chief is a ceremonial role, similar to a sponsor or patron.

, Girl Scout History Project
Princess Patricia and the Duke of Connaught at the Winnipeg Expo in 1912 (http://dukeofconnaught.yolasite.com/).

The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry was formed in August 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, and will celebrate its centennial next month.  Members are affectionately known as the “Princess Pats” or the “Patricias,” and their annual magazine is The Patrician. It is a highly decorated unit that served with distinction in both World Wars, Korea, Cyprus, the Balkans, and Afghanistan.

The popular “Princess Pat” camp song is said to be a variation on the regiment’s own marching song, with lyrics that have become increasingly garbled over time. Like a game of telephone, the phrase “light infantry” has transformed into “lived in a tree.” The word “rigabamboo” (or rickabamboo) refers to the red, gold, and purple regimental flag and is “Ric-A-Dam-D00” in the original.

, Girl Scout History Project
Princess Patricia presents a wreath to the troops (www.birthofaregiment.com).

I’ve come up with at least three versions: the Scout Tree song, the Scout Light Infantry version, and the Regimental lyrics.  Although I could not find a definitive statement, the regiment supposedly has asked that the song not be sung with the irregular lyrics as they regard it as disrespectful.

In addition to her needlework talent, Princess Pat was an accomplished painter whose work was widely exhibited. She married Alexander Ramsay, a Naval officer who worked for her father in Canada, in 1919. Now known as Lady Ramsay, Patricia traveled the world with her husband as he rose to the rank of admiral. They had one son. Lady Ramsay passed away in 1974, but Princess Pat lives on in hundreds of Girl Scout, Boy Scout, and Girl Guide camps around the world.

Want to learn more about real princesses? Check out my new patch program, Real Princess.

, Girl Scout History Project
My Real Princess patch program.

9 responses to “Princess Pat Out of Her Tree”

  1. Thanks Ann for helping to spread the word!

  2. http://dragon.sleepdeprived.ca/songbook/songs4/S4_17.htm
    for more info on the original song lyrics

  3. The Princess Pat

    Now here’s an interesting story! One of the most popular Canadian Girl Guide echo songs is the famous “Princess Pat”. But this song has a lot of history attached to it that most folks are completely unaware of. Did you know that the Princess Pat Light Infantry Unit is a part of the Canadian Armed Forces? Or that they have a long and honoured tradition within our military? Or that the song we Guides sing is actually a much modified version of their regimental marching song?

    I am generally not much of a fan of “banning” the singing of certain songs. However in this case, and after you’ve read the story below, perhaps you’ll change your mind about singing “The Princess Pat” at your next campfire. It is one of the few songs I no longer sing myself, out of respect. I, too, am an army brat.

    Thanks very, very much to Kathy P., who supplied me with this piece of Canadian history.

    The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Unit, currently stationed in Edmonton, AB, do NOT like us singing their song in either the corrupted or the correct version. Some of the real verses are not suitable for singing to our girls anyway – it’s a soldiers’ song, remember. They view this song about as kindly as we would a crazy parody of the World Song – and it does bear enough resemblance to the original that it is easily recognizable.

    The problem with the song as we sing it is that we don’t change it enough. The song is about their Regimental Colours (called “the Ric-A-Dam-Doo”) which were actually handmade by Princess Patricia of Connaught herself, granddaughter to Queen Victoria, daughter of our (then) Governor General and Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment. It regales the exploits of the Regiment since it’s inception.

    The PPCLI is a regiment that was formed by private funding in 1914 to fight in WWI. They continue to this day to be an active regiment having won many battle honours and serving us both in war and in peace as part of Canada’s peacekeeping forces. The Princess Pat’s are on active duty at this moment. In fact, those four Canadians who were killed recently by US “friendly fire” were members of the Princess Pat’s.

    If you have ever known anyone in the military, you will know that the Honour of the Regiment is very dear to their heart – and is in fact essential in keeping the spirit in horrible situations that we could never imagine. Instead of just using the tune to write our own totally non-related words, which probably wouldn’t bother them, we have taken the words of their story that they are very proud of (even though poking fun at themselves) and corrupted them until they have reached the level of a joke – most especially disgracing the Honour of the Ric-A-Dam-Doo by calling it a “Ricky Bamboo” and muddling up the colours. It is red, gold and royal blue by the way.

    Imagine if somebody had taken the words and music to O Canada or God Save the Queen. A parody using the music only would be recognizable as simply that, no problem – but imagine if they actually kept most of the words and changed them just enough that it seemed as if they were making fun of our Queen and country (and us as well). How would it make you feel? For those of you in countries other than Canada, think of this in relation to your own special songs or proud regiments – imagine “Hail to the Thief” for example.

    Would you do it to these songs and then shrug off those who are offended by it? No, but we do it to the PPCLI on a regular basis. These are men who were responsible for fighting for our freedom and peace, surely we can treat them with a little more respect. We owe them better. Since its creation in 1914, the PPCLI has been continuously in the order of battle of the regular Canadian Army, and verses have been added to the song to match each phase of that long career. The version below represents the song as it would have been sung circa WWII. I don’t have any of the more modern verses, but these are the ones that are corrupted for the version that the Guides tend to sing.

    I won’t apologize for its political incorrectness because of the time and circumstance of the writing of the song. That is the way things were for them then – and anyway, we don’t seem to care about our own political incorrectness in singing it.

    The Ric-A-Dam-Doo
    (aka the Princess Pats)

    The Princess Pat’s Battalion
    They sailed across the Herring Pond,
    They sailed across the Channel too,
    And landed there with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo
    Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

    The Princess Pat’s Battalion Scouts
    They never knew their whereabouts.
    If there’s a pub within a mile or two,
    You’ll find them there with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
    Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

    The Lewis Guns are always true
    To every call of the Ric-A-Dam-Doo.
    They’re always there with a burst or two
    Whenever they see the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
    Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

    The Bombers of the Princess Pat’s
    Are scared of naught, excepting rats,
    They’re full of pep and dynamite too,
    They’d never lose the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
    Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

    The Transport of the Princess Pat’s
    Are all dressed up in Stetson hats.
    They shine their brass and limbers too
    I believe they’d shine the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
    Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

    Old Number Three, our company
    We must fall in ten times a day.
    If we fell out ‘twould never do
    For then we’d lose the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
    Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

    Old Charlie S., our Major dear,
    Who always buys us rum and beer,
    If there’s a trench in a mile or two
    You’ll find him there with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
    Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

    Old Ackity-Ack, our Colonel grand,
    The leader of this noble band,
    He’d go to Hell and charge right through
    Before he’d lose the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
    Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

    Old Hammy Gault, our first PP,
    He led this band across the sea,
    He’d lose an arm, or leg or two
    Before he’d lose the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
    Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

    And then we came to Sicily.
    We leapt ashore with vim and glee.
    The Colonel said the Wops are through
    Let’s chase the Hun with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
    Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

    The Ric-A-Dam-Doo, pray what is that?
    ‘Twas made at home by Princess Pat,
    It’s Red and Gold and Royal Blue,
    That’s what we call the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
    Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

    The Herring Pond is the Atlantic Ocean
    The Channel is the English Channel
    Bombers are Grenade Throwers
    Scouts are used for reconnaissance and information-gathering behind enemy lines
    A Lewis Gun is a light machine gun
    The Transport Troops wear Stetsons because the wagons were horse-drawn in WWI
    Charlie S. is Major Charles Stewart who commanded No 3 Company on 1916
    Ackity-Ack refers to Lieutenant-Colonel A.S.A.M. Adamson, the regiment’s commanding officer during the Battle for Vimy Ridge.
    Hammy Gault is Hamilton Gault of Montreal who created the regiment, and equipped it at his own expense, for overseas service during WWI.
    While the words themselves are of a humorous reference to various aspects of the Regiment (that is their prerogative), one can still hear the pride and protection for the Ric-A-Dam-Doo. As in any family, they are allowed to make fun of their own members – but heaven help the outsider who does the same. If people like the tune, the best idea would be to write their own song to fit (and many songs do use that tune) but remove any and all references that would link it to the actual Ric-A-Dam-Doo version. That way, everyone would be happy and we could have a win-win with no offence to anyone.

    The closest tune (but not exact) is similar to (if you know it): “The other day, I saw a bear…” As you can see, it is close enough to the original in essence that we have corrupted their song rather than just use the tune for our own invented song. The thing is, it is their song and they are offended by us singing it the way we do, so who are we to say to them that it doesn’t matter? It does.

    With all the songs out there to sing do we really need to continue this one?

    The Princess Pat
    (leader sings one line, others repeat)
    (actions in brackets)

    The Princess Pat (egyptian pose)
    Light infantry (salute)
    They sailed across (wave motion in front of body with one hand)
    The seven seas (number 7 with your finger, then make a “C” with one hand)
    They sailed across (wave motion)
    The channel two (two hands tracing a channel, then number 2 on one hand)
    And took with them (throw a sack over your shoulder)
    A rick-a-bamboo! (trace a wavy figure in front of you going down, bend knees as you go)

    A rick-a-bamboo (same as before)
    Now what is that? (shrug shoulders, hold out hands)
    It’s something made (bang one fist on top of the other)
    For the Princess Pat (egyptian pose)
    It’s red and gold (“twirl” one arm down by your hip)
    And purple too (flip hands as if you were saying “Oh my gosh!”)
    That’s why it’s called (cup hands in front of mouth, shout)
    A rick-a-bamboo! (same as before)

    Now Captain Dan (salute)
    And his loyal crew (salute several times)
    They sailed across (wave action)
    The channel two (same as before)
    But their ship sank (plug nose, one hand over head and waving as you bend knees)
    And yours will too (point to others in the circle)
    Unless you take (throw an invisible bag over your shoulder)
    A rick-a-bamboo! (same as before)

    A rick-a-bamboo (same as before)
    Now what is that? (shrug shoulders, hold out hands)
    It’s something made (bang one fist on top of the other)
    For the Princess Pat (egyptian pose)
    It’s red and gold (“twirl” one arm down by your hip)
    And purple too (flip hands as if you were saying “Oh my gosh!”)
    That’s why it’s called (cup hands in front of mouth, shout)
    (everyone together) A rick-a-bamboo! (same as before)

    1. Ann Robertson Avatar
      Ann Robertson

      Thank you for your comment. I saw this information when I researched this topic but did not include it because there are no sources listed. Where did you find it?

  4. […] July post about the “Princess Pat” song and its controversial lyrics brought a flood of comments.  They can be divided into two […]

  5. […] we know that the correct lyrics of the popular camp song are not “The Princess Pat lived in a tree.…” perhaps they can be updated to “…carved from a […]

  6. I saw these comments on a GG site a couple years ago. I brought it to my SU but thats where it ended. I don’t go to camp any more so I don’t know if it’s still sung by my SU.

  7. […] to fill that last category. There always is a sober-minded staffer who explains to the girls that Princess Pat did not actually live in a […]

  8. We had an event that included Girl Guides from Canada. They made it VERY Clear that the version most of us sing is very offensive to to them and their country. We made the choice during that event to spread the word and plan to teach the appropriate version to adults and children going forward.

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